Magic Jack is an inexpensive device that lets you make phone calls over the Internet. You need a good quality broadband Internet connection and a computer to access your Magic Jack account. Depending on which version of Magic Jack you get, you can use your computer speakers, microphone and keyboard as a telephone or you can connect a standard phone to the Magic Jack. Magic Jack reviews give varying accounts of its performance. It’s great in some ways, but it does have a few problems.
Purchase and Setup
You can buy Magic Jack from the Magic Jack website. As of November 2012, the computer-based Magic Jack that plugs into a USB port costs $39.95, while the Magic Jack Plus, for use without a computer, costs $69.95. The annual cost is $29.95, dropping to $19.95 if you sign up for five years.
You plug the Magic Jack into your computer or plug the Magic Jack Plus into a wall socket and connect it to your router. You can then plug any standard phone into the Magic Jack. In both cases, you have to register your account and choose a phone number over the Internet. You can port an existing number to your new account or choose a new number.
Reviews such as the one at the Gadgeteer describe the initial setup process as easy and straightforward, but the registration of the account as more complicated. You have to negotiate over a dozen screens and the website tries to sell you more features, such a special numbers or upgrades. Once you’re registered, the unit works without additional configuration.
The main attraction of the service is that, once you have paid the annual fee, all calls within the U.S. and Canada are free. The initial purchase price includes the annual charge for the first year. Call waiting, voicemail and caller ID are also free.
Calls outside of the U.S. and Canada still cost money and you have to prepay for the minutes you intend to use. You can load your account with a prepaid amount and pay by credit card. Typical rates for international calls are on the order of several cents per minute, but there are much higher charges for dialing some international mobile numbers.
Magic Jack delivers excellent call quality, as long as the Internet conditions outside its control are optimal. Magic Jack reviews at PCWorld and DSLReports show that many people get excellent call quality. It all depends on your Internet connection.
VoIP phone services, such as Magic Jack, chop up your voice into small data packets and send them over the public Internet. The service puts the packets back together before feeding the signal into the phone lines at the other end. If some packets don’t arrive in time due to server or cable overloads, call quality goes down. This type of service will always have good and bad days.
Practically all the Magic Jack reviews agree that its customer service is poor. Many issues raised in critical reviews of the product can actually be traced back to poor customer service. The site relies on help videos, a knowledge base and live chat. There is no telephone support.
Basically you are purchasing an inexpensive product that does not generate enough revenue for extensive in-person technical support. Other VoIP services have better support, but cost more. Magic Jack reviews show that, while installation and setup are simple, you are pretty much on your own if you run into problems.
All VoIP phone services have a problem with 911 calls. With standard telephone land lines, the emergency services look at the caller ID and trace the number back to the address. VoIP phones such as Magic Jack can be moved and don’t have an address with a fixed location.
Magic Jack addresses this issue by asking for your address during the registration process. You have to give the address where you plan to use the Magic Jack and keep your account address updated if you move the product to another location. In that case, emergency services will know where you are if you call 911.
One advantage of VoIP telephone services is that you do not have to sign up with a local telephone number. Magic Jack lets you choose any number that is available in any city in the U.S. You can even choose Canadian numbers at an additional cost of $10.
Some people take advantage of this feature if they have friends, family or business contacts in another city. Someone living in New York with a daughter in Los Angeles can get the Magic Jack as a second line with a number in L.A. It has to be a second line because they still need a local New York number for normal local calls.
The daughter can then make local calls to the L.A. number and avoid long distance charges. The calls from New York to L.A. with the Magic Jack are free, as well. It’s like getting a cheap, personalized version of a 1-800 number.
Magic Jack Reviews Summary
The reviews for this product are mixed, but a majority agree that, with Magic Jack, you get what you pay for. You are purchasing an inexpensive VoIP service that offers basic features and little support. If you seldom have difficulties in solving simple problems with digital products, you will probably be satisfied with Magic Jack. If you often need extensive support for modern technology, you may be better off with a more expensive product that offers good telephone support or you can take a second look at using a Home Phone service on a landline.